McConnell introduces third coronavirus relief proposal
Senate Republicans have reached a deal among themselves on legislation for the third coronavirus funding package amid growing concerns about a widespread outbreak in the United States.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the agreement on the Senate floor, noting that Republicans would begin negotiating with Democrats on Friday.
Sixty votes would be needed to pass a coronavirus bill, meaning it will have to be bipartisan.
“I’m officially introducing the coronavirus aid relief and economic security act. The legislation takes bold acton on four major priorities that are extremely urgent and very necessary,” McConnell said Thursday afternoon.
The nearly 250-page bill includes direct financial help for Americans, relief for small businesses, help for impacted industries like airlines and efforts to bolster the health care system.
Among the direct help for individuals is $1,200 for individuals who make up to $75,000. The caps would be doubled for filers. It also includes an additional $500 for a child.
“Preventing the spread of the coronavirus will take a financial toll on individuals, families and businesses. These recommendations would blunt the impact for most Americans and limit the damage to the U.S. economy,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement.
The direct cash assistance, which is backed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, earned fierce pushback among some members of the caucus. But GOP senators indicated that it had too much support to be removed from the package offered by McConnell and other top Republicans.
“This will provide immediate relief to folks who are facing cash flow problems as they stay home to stop the spread,” Grassley said from the Senate floor, describing the decision.
The bill would also delay the deadline to file 2019 taxes from April 15 to July 15.
“While this won’t solve all of the problems our nation is facing overnight, cash payments to middle- and low-income families will provide direct support as quickly as possible. The time to act is now,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.
The bill also includes $208 billion in loans for major industries that have been impacted by the coronavirus. Republicans dismissed the idea of providing the funding as grants, which wouldn’t need to be paid back, amid resistance over the idea of providing a “bail out.”
The $208 billion includes up to $50 billion for airlines, $8 billion for cargo air carriers and $150 billion for “other eligible entities.”
“Let’s be crystal clear about what we are and are not doing here. We are not bailing out the airlines or other industries – period. Instead, we are allowing the Treasury Secretary to make or guarantee collateralized loans to industries whose operations the coronavirus outbreak has jeopardized,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a statement.
The package also includes $300 billion for small businesses. Under the loan structure, the loans would be forgiven if the businesses maintain their payroll. They could also use the loan to cover things like paid sick leave and mortgage payments.
“America’s more than 30 million small businesses — and the 59.9 million individuals they employ — today face the prospect of going bankrupt. They face this threat due to no fault of their own, but because of a global pandemic that takes human lives and grinds productivity to a halt,” Rubio added in a statement.
The administration has agreed to send a handful of administration officials, including Mnuchin, up to the Capitol starting on Friday to take part in the negotiations.
“I would invite all of their Democratic counterparts to join us at the table tomorrow. These are urgent discussions. They need to happen at a member level, and they need to happen starting right now,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
Underscoring the urgency, senators expect that they will work through the weekend to try to negotiate an agreement on the coronavirus package.
“I might add all Republican senators, whether they are part of this group that I just mentioned or not, have been asked to stay in town. We’re here. We’re ready to act,” McConnell added.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats would work with Republicans to come up with a bipartisan bill “as soon as we can.”
“Because this crisis grows worse every day, and we believe we need a bold plan, a strong plan. Our plan must put workers, millions of workers who are adversely affected by this crisis first,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
Schumer added that McConnell’s plan had “virtually no input from Democrats.”
Updated at 6:38 p.m.